MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
While the US has been causing impoverishment and the breakdown of civil society in Latin America - as noted in a BuzzFlash commentary yesterday - it has been continuing its decade-long boycott of Cuba. That action has lost US businesses hundreds of billions of dollars as other nations invest in the island. The boycott is a symbol of the lingering visceral vile toward Castro and the word communism.
Castro is in ill health, and Cuba appears about ready to burst out of the Soviet era as one of the last two communist nations on earth (along with North Korea). Cuba, however, differs from North Korea in that, while it is still subject to the cult of a one-man dictatorship, Cubans are on the last legs of a fading and disintegrating experiment in Soviet-style government. North Korea has one of the largest armies in the world; Cuba since the former Soviet Union cut it off years ago has a military force that is a shadow of it former strength.
Nonetheless, the aging pro-Batista exile community in Florida and the neocons with a Cold War hangover continue to enforce a boycott on the island 90 miles from the Keys that now threatens national security much less than Cliven Bundy and his militia supporters. In fact, on a threat-level scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being the greatest threat to the US), Cuba probably scores about a 25.
There is another very interesting aspect of the US government's focus on Cuba as a political punching bag. Virtually any Cuban who makes it to dry ground in the US will not be deported. It used to be that no Cuban immigrants were kicked out of the US, but after the 1980 Mariel boat lift, in which Castro allegedly put "undesirables" and boats and sent them sailing to Florida, Cubans had to make it to the US land mass to be considered refugees who would not be deported. Only if they are intercepted at sea are they sent back to Cuba.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Long before the billionaire Koch Brothers and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson began polluting the American political landscape with obscene amounts of money, decades before the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, years before the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth mobilized a platoon of millionaire financiers to put the kibosh on John Kerry's presidential campaign, and before folks like Rex Sinquefield were bound and determined to have their money loom large over the legislative process in the states, there was Richard Mellon Scaife.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Scaife and his family were among the top donors to a myriad of right-wing organizations and causes. Back in the day it didn't take long before researchers following the money behind the conservative movement ran headlong into the Scaife clan.
Scaife, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based heir to the Mellon banking fortune, was a man on a multi-pronged mission. He succeeded in helping build the powerful conservative infrastructure that essentially paved the way for the way for the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the rise of the Religious Right and the institutionalization of such right-wing powerhouses as the Heritage Foundation.
According to The New York Times, Scaife "inherited roughly $500 million in 1965, and with more family bequests and income from trust funds and investments in oil, steel and real estate, nearly tripled his net worth over his lifetime. But unlike his forebears, who were primarily benefactors of museums, public art collections, education and medicine, he gave hundreds of millions to promote conservative political causes."
BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Despite the July 4 tributes, millions of US soldiers and veterans are in serious trouble.
Twenty two veterans kill themselves every day according to the Veterans Administration. A study by the Los Angeles Times found veterans are more than twice as likely as other civilians to commit suicide. Suicides among full-time soldiers, especially among male soldiers, are also well above the national civilian rate. USA Today reported a suicide rate of 19.9 per 100,000 for civilian men compared to rates of 31.8 per 100,000 for male soldiers and 34.2 per 100,000 for men in the National Guard.
Over 57,000 veterans are homeless on any given night according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Unemployment is much higher among post 911 veterans than the general population according to the Department of Labor.
More than 1.4 million veterans are living below the poverty line according to US Senate report, and another 1.4 million are just above the line. Of veterans between the ages of 18 and 34, 12.5 percent are living in poverty.
Over 900,000 veterans live in households which receive food stamps reports the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The use of food stamps by active duty service members appears to be at an all-time high, according to CNN. In addition, many active duty service families receive a special military supplemental food allowance designed to replace food stamps for low income service families.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It is worth debunking just two myths that have been generated in the mainstream media and anti-immigrant organizations about the alleged flood of young people from south of the border.
First of all, most reliable accounts indicate that approximately 75 percent of the youths reaching the US border with Mexico are from Central America, particularly Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. These young people risk a harrowing journey across the spine of Mexico, where they are shook down for money, sometimes kidnapped, sometimes shot by paramilitary groups or the police, and in general face a gauntlet of life-threatening obstacles as they attempt to traverse Mexico to reach the United States. (Often the journey involves riding on top of a notorious freight train that is seen as a source of income and slave labor to different thugs in Mexico.)
How serious a risk is the undertaking of being young and in flight? Consider that you see photos of young people with only one arm. Often that's from falling under the train that moves from south to north in Mexico, sometimes from being thrown off the top of the cars because they could not pay enough money to bandits shaking them down.
JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There was a gun show in San Francisco last weekend and hundreds of people were already lined up at the door and waiting, hours ahead of the opening bell. Why? "We want to buy guns, of course, but we also want to buy ammunition." Of course. What is the use of having a gun if you don't have any ammunition?
And what is the use of buying just one gun when you can buy two? Or three or four -- or a hundred.
And what is the use of owning a derringer when you can own a pistol? And why own a pistol when you can easily trade up and buy a semiautomatic weapon instead? And why just have a semiautomatic weapon when you can get your hands on an AK-47? Or a rocket-launcher -- better yet!
WILLIAM RIVERS PITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In all the darkness, the teeth-grinding fury, the disgust, and the desperate temptation to surrender to despair, I remember:
That Black people who were brought here in chains won their freedom, and then more freedom, and then equal status under the law. It was a long and horror-filled road, it should never have happened, but we as a nation fixed it, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).
That women have only had the right to vote for 95 of the years this country has existed, which frankly blows my whole mind. We as a nation fixed that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).
That growing old used to be a dead-bang guarantee of growing poor. We as a nation fixed that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).
That 146 people, mostly women, died in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire because as workers, they had no rights. We as a nation fixed that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).
That marriage rights existed in a state of apartheid, to the exclusion of LGTB people, until the dam broke recently. We as a nation are still fixing that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).
The curious thought experiment that is the United States of America is built on a lot of mythology, and a lot of greed, and the machinery of that construction was lubricated with an ocean of Native American and African blood...but it has a lot of soul, too, and an astonishing amount of potential.
ROBERT KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Let’s take a stroll along the third rail of American culture, shall we?
We can follow it straight into the grocery store, where Joy DeGruy and her sister-in-law are standing at the checkout line. The sister-in-law, who is biracial but looks white, chats amiably with the clerk as she writes out a check for her groceries, and life is lovely as can be. But when Joy, who is black, tries to pay for her groceries, the clerk stares at her coldly and asks for two pieces of ID, then searches for her name on the “bad check” list. Joy’s 10-year-old daughter, standing with her mom, wells up with tears, unable to fathom why this sweet, friendly checkout girl has suddenly turned mean.
Well, here’s why: “. . .these people are a danger to America greater and more insuperable than any of those that menaced the other great civilized states of the world.”
We just need to follow the third rail back to 1884, as Harvard scholar Nathaniel Southgate Shaler (quoted above) holds forth in Atlantic magazine. Or back, back, across time and oceans, to a 15th century papal directive: “Any land that was not inhabited by Christians was available to be ‘discovered.’”
The third rail is, of course, race — racial insanity, actually: the schism, deeper than the Mariana Trench, separating Europe from the rest of humanity. We’ve inherited it and we’re stuck with it, whether we’re black or white, brown or red, light-skinned or dark-skinned, abolitionist or flag-waving son of the Old South. And we don’t talk about it, at least not during the normal course of the day. But race is ever-present as we go about our lives, igniting emotions we usually succeed in politely suppressing, unless . . . oh, an African-American woman, say, wants to write a check for her groceries.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Hobby Lobby decision. For it is as least as significant for the future of our nation as is Dick Cheney, what he stands for, and who he represents (the subject to which we shall return next week). The Hobby Lobby decision has many implications. First, one must agree with Justice Ginsburg that regardless of Justices Alito's caveats, the tide unleashed by the decision of the Right-wing Five is not going to stop at the shoreline of the separation of church and state any time soon. And for the long-range future of the United States, that is the most significant element of the decision.We interrupt the two-part series on "The Significance of Dick Cheney" to deal with the breaking news of the
That is not to say that it also has horrible outcomes for women and their sexual behavior, their private lives, and their private decision-making. As Andy Borowitz so cogently put it, "Supreme Court Majority Calls Case a Dispute between Women and People." Chiming in was everyone's favorite very-far-right GOP Senator Mike Lee of Utah who said that most women who use contraceptives do so for "recreational purposes." Like that's supposed to make a difference on whether or not a public corporation can discriminate against women on their choice of FDA approved contraceptives, on religious grounds. By the way, most folks label Lee as a "Tea Partier," as if such types really differ from "regular Republicans." Well, they do, but not on policy (except perhaps around the edges on immigration policy, which Eric Cantor found to his regret, at least among the 13% of eligible voters in his district who bothered to vote). If you look closely, it is almost always just a matter of style and wording.
There are a variety of other important negative aspects of this decision that are being widely and well dealt with from the Left. In my view, the most important one is how this decision ushers our one further, very big, step down the road to theocracy. For the Supreme Court has held that in matters of legislation, law, and public programs, the religious positions of one person (and of course they have recently reaffirmed the original 1880s railroad-lawyers-Court decision that corporations are people (see "Citizens United"), can outweigh the religious position, or non-religious but ethical/moral position, of another.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Visions of apocalyptic battles are not only taking place at conferences of far-right organizations, in End Times novels, and on theater and television screens these days. Some in what might be considered mainstream right-wing circles also seem to be cranking up the rhetoric and spoiling for such battles.
In a new piece published by Political Research Associates (PRA), Frederick Clarkson quotes Republican campaign and conservative movement strategist David Lane, who last year wrote on a conservative website: "If the American experiment with freedom is to end after 237 years, let each of us commit to brawl all the way to the end."
More recently, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told the crowd at the annual conference of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, that he could "sense right now a rebellion brewing amongst these United States, where people are ready for a hostile takeover of Washington, D.C., to preserve the American Dream for our children and grandchildren."
In his PRA piece titled "Rumblings of Theocratic Violence," Clarkson pointed out that while "such rhetoric" has been "common on the farther reaches of the Right" for many years and could be easily dismissed, "[b]ut something has changed in recent years" as these "disturbing claims are appearing more frequently, more prominently, and in ways that suggest that they are expressions of deeply held beliefs more than provocative political hyperbole."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Okay, I will concede that the issue in the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Hobby Lobby decision was the not the payment of taxes per se. Yes, SCOTUS granted the owners of Hobby Lobby the right to deny federally mandated coverage of some types of contraception. However, even the so-called "narrow" ruling broadened just the next day, according to Mother Jones:
Less than a day after the United States Supreme Court issued its divisive ruling on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it has already begun to toss aside the supposedly narrow interpretation of the decision. On Tuesday, the Supremes ordered lower courts to rehear any cases where companies had sought to deny coverage for any type of contraception, not just the specific types Hobby Lobby was opposed to.
Again, the issue was not technically a ruling on taxes, but it was a decision in favor of bestowing personhood on a corporation (a corporation must be considered "human" if it is to have religious beliefs) and allowing the "corporate person" to avoid paying for mandated federal health services.
That sets the precedent, it seems (with a grateful acknowledgement to Jon Oliver for the idea), that the Supreme Court should allow real persons to withhold a percentage of their income taxes that go toward wars and prisons, if they so wish. Of course, the federal courts have repeatedly rejected the right of individual taxpayers to withhold a portion of their taxes in objection to how the money would be spent. On the other hand, it just ruled that a business, which is not a person, doesn't have to spend money on a specific type of federally mandated health care.